Tuesday, December 1, 2015

INDIA: Lured into playing the "Great Power" Nuclear Game

Nuclear Power Plants in India:
Current, Under Construction, Proposed
(Source: SSCAdda)
The Paris Climate Conference is on, and India is being recognized as central to the whole thing.

What I learned at the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima is that India is on the cusp of a massive nuclear power generation expansion . . .

. . . and that Japan, which is in the midst of a nuclear power disaster (Fukushima), is doing everything it can to export nuclear power plants to India.


A "Great Power" Game

As explained by Kumar Sundaram at the forum in Hiroshima, in the post-Fukushima era, the rest of the world is re-thinking nuclear power; India, however, is acting on a very old aspiration that it is just now able to bring to fruition.

India's nuclear program has been a priority since Independence in 1947. India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, said:

"As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest devices for its protection. I have no doubt India will develop her scientific researches and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic force for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal." (June 26, 1946)

The architect of India's "three-stage plan," Homi Bhabha, became one of the most powerful men in the country.

India conducting a nuclear bomb test in 1974 ("Smiling Buddha"). Western countries responded by forming the Nuclear Suppliers Group, India was effectively embargoed. In 1998, under BJP rule, India conducted a series of nuclear tests ("Operation Shakti," "Pokhran II") which prodded the US to begin a process of dialog, leading to India being welcomed back into the nuclear "club" and a "grand deal" in 2005.

Today, India's nuclear power plant count is:

Existing: 21 (small)
Under construction: 6
Proposed: 35

The proposed plants include 6 from France, 4 from GE-Hitachi,and 4 from Westinghouse-Toshiba, and include a 10,000 MW plant - which would be the biggest in the world.

Indian hibakusha include the uranium workers of Jadugoda -- as documented by the photographer Ashish Birulee, of the Jadugoda Uranium Mine Anti-Radiation Alliance.  Moreover, the system of avoiding worker protections at nuclear power plants by using sub-contractors of sub-contractors of sub-contractors mean that all nuclear workers in India are at high risk.

The enormous irony is that now one country -- India -- is responding to its past subjugation by the Western imperial program with this hugely self-damaging program, and another country that has struggled with its relationship to the Western imperial program -- Japan -- is doing everything it can to aid and abet.


Shinzo Abe, Fukushima is an unending disaster.
How can you see nukes to India?
NO to India-Japan Nuclear Agreement
(Source: Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP))


The need to wake up

No one should underestimate the centrality of nuclear power and nuclear weapons to the political circus in India.


INDIA: nuclear politics center stage


More broadly, India's nuclear story is a perfect example of how people are lulled into a state of complacency by the "entertainment quality" of current events.


"The ideology of Hindu nuclear nationalism . . . "
(Source: Mute)


"An Indian greeting card for Diwali from 1998,
celebrating India’s nuclear tests."
(Sourced from Nuclear Secrecy blog.)


First time in Indian TV history: Nat Geo takes you inside India's first
and the largest nuclear power plant. (Source: Nat Geo TV)



An Agni ballistic missile on display at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
(Source: Indian Express)


(We have to be on guard against letting our protests against nuclear power and nuclear weapons fall into the same pattern of "entertainment.")


The role of film and social media

The filmmaker Shriprikash asked a great question at the Hiroshima forum: "How do we get this information out to the masses?"

One way, obviously, is via film (such as Shriprikash's own Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda (1999)).

The Uranium Film Festival traveled in India in 2013. (See by "Bollywood stars could act in the romances around nuclear contamination".)

High Power, a 27-minute documentary about the health issues faced by residents of Tarapur, a town in Maharashtra, and home to the 50- year-old Tarapur nuclear power plant, recently won the Yellow Oscar in the short film category in the Rio de Janeiro leg of the Uranium Film Festival.

Director Praved Krishnapilla 's Nuclear Lies takes the spectators on a journey to different locations of the nuclear industry in India.

Anti-nuclear activists can help by taking it up a notch on social media. Start by participating in the social media campaigns of groups like Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace in India (@CNDP_India).


Related links

Pankaj Mishra in the Japan Times: "Nuclear power: India shouldn’t buy what Japan is trying to sell"


Related posts 

Upon returning from the World Nuclear Victims Forum in Hiroshima, I introduced 10 of the post prominent examples of "global hibakusha" about which I learned at the conference.

(See NUCLEAR RADIATION VICTIMS: 10 Dimensions of the #GlobalHibakusha Phenomenon )





Hibakusha is a word that has traditionally been used to refer to people affected by the nuclear blasts in Hiroshima and Nagaski. It is now being broadened to recognize the many additional victims of acute affects of nuclear radiation (including fallout from tests and radioactivity from mining and processing). In fact, we are all subject to the impact and threat of nuclear radiation spread indiscriminately by nations and corporations.

(See HIROSHIMA: What does it mean to say, "We are ALL 'hibakusha'?")






After removing a thin layer of soil from just the residential areas, the workers had produced acres of garbage bags full of contaminated soil.

(See Radioactive Waste: "What are you gonna do with it?"